Team Players in the Garden, Anyone?

The best companion plants not only improve the growth or flavor of their mates, but also repel insects and critters.  Aromatic plants usually make good companions, with their abilities to discourage or distract unwanted munchers in your garden.  The would-be diners are either put off by the fragrance of the plant, or are simply don’t recognize the aroma of their garden salad bar favorites, masked by the stronger smelling companion plants.

Here are a few herbs that improve the vegetables with which they are planted.  Basil gets along with and improves the flavor of most of its neighbors in the garden.  Tomatoes especially love basil, perhaps because it also repels mosquitoes.  Tomatoes also like cozying up to dill and sage (encourages growth).   Tarragon also gets along with everyone in the garden and usually improves their flavor.  Marjoram stimulates growth; thyme repels certain pests, and they both pair nicely with everything in the garden.

Love your weeds.  At least some of them.  Learn more about your weeds before ripping them out of the garden.  They’re not all evil.  Some actually pull nutrients in the soil up to the root levels of nearby crop plants.  They can also provide some of the same benefits as ground covers.

Catnip, chives, rosemary, sage, and thyme repel specific insect pests.  Oregano is an all-purpose insect repellent.  Herbs aren’t the only members of the garden capable of protecting their neighbors.  Tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms.  Not all pest repelling plants are compatible with every member of the veggie garden.  For example, sage shouldn’t be planted near onions (which happen to discourage maggots).

Marigolds are multifunctional companions, repelling insect and animal pests above and below ground level (when dug into the soil).  Nasturtiums not only repel at least five different insect plant predators, but also sacrifice their leaves to lure aphids away from crop plants.  Clover is a nitrogen fixer, green manure crop, and when planted in a wide border around your garden, deters rabbits, who prefer the tender clover leaves.

Incompatible plants require personal space of at least 4’.  The following is a short list of plants who just can’t stand each other in the garden:

  • No Onions or peppers near beans or peas.
  • No herbs, melons, or potatoes near cucumbers.
  • No broccoli near lettuce.
  • No beans near radishes.
  • No cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, cabbage, etc) corn or potatoes near tomatoes.
  • Cruciferous vegetables don’t get along with themselves at all.

This is just a sampling of the wisdom available from trusted sources, encouraging sustainable gardening practices.  Explore these sources, and beyond, to enhance your knowledge and make your home gardening even more rewarding.

Source:  The Old Farmer’s Almanac website, www.almanac.com.  Search for plant companions.
Source:  Mother Earth News website, http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening.  Search for companion planting guide. Note:     Also search for plant companions on organicgardening.com.